Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1259 EAT on Saturday 30 April 2022.
The inspector general of government (IGG) Beti Olive Namisango Kamya has announced that she will still conduct a lifestyle audit on government officials whose wealth does not match their known income.
Kamya’s declaration comes four months after President Yoweri Museveni cautioned her on the strategy, saying she should go slow as it could scare the corrupt officials from investing the stolen funds in the country and instead take it abroad.
But Kamya now says that it is very hard to catch the corrupt top government officials, and so she has to pursue the lifestyle audit approach.
“The big fish is slippery,” lamented Kamya who was meeting leaders from local government at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala.
The public has often blamed the inspectorate for hunting down low-ranking government officials (small fish) engaged in less costly corruption tendencies yet there are top government officials often referred to as big fish who are corrupt and cause massive loss to the country.
Kamya says it’s hard to find evidence to pin top government officials for corruption because they operate through lower staff, they don’t sign on documents, sometimes discuss corruption deals from abroad and keep ‘their’ stolen money in offshore accounts. She says without any footprints left nor tangible evidence, they are not able to prosecute top government officials engaged in corruption.
“People out there are screaming; ‘why don’t you catch the big fish, you’re getting mukene – small staff, silverfish. We want the big fish, sabulenya – those are the people who are corrupt’. And I’m telling you this is what happens, you go and get the big fish but according to the law, they’ll take you to court and when he goes to court, the big fish is very slippery,” said Kamya.
According to a recent survey by the inspectorate, the cost of corruption in Uganda has risen from Shs 9.1 trillion in 2019 to Shs 20 trillion annually. Half of this money is lost during procurement processes, under declaration of tax and utility costs among others. The other Shs 10 trillion is lost due to absenteeism of civil servants, especially health workers and teachers.
Kamya says that because it is hard to catch the big fish who engage in big corruption deals, the inspectorate has focused its efforts on the lifestyle audit to nab corrupt officials.
Under the lifestyle audit, the inspectorate shall, based on officers’ declarations, compare their official earnings and their investments to see if they are in tandem.
Kamya says that for an official who earns Shs 2 million to have a huge investments, they should be able to explain the source of the money. Failure to do so, Kamya says the property of such officials shall be confiscated and sold to recover government funds.
“Corruption has a face, corruption is that lavish lifestyle that a public officer lives that is not commiserate with his or her legitimate known source of income. That is the face of corruption. That expensive car, those many houses that he’s building, taking kids abroad – that if they can’t match that public officer’s source of income – that is the face of corruption,” added Kamya.
Kamya asked LC V chairpersons to help in fighting corruption in their areas, first by shunning the vice and secondly by reporting corruption. She says that the inspectorate shall no longer operate from boardrooms but in the field, seeking out culprits and apprehending them.
The president of Uganda Local Government Association Richard Rwabihingizi said local governments are committed to fighting corruption but are under-facilitated and less empowered. He says that on top of a small salary, they are not facilitated to go to the field to monitor different government projects in their jurisdictions.
Government promised to give motorcycles to some local government political officials but only a few districts have received them. Rwabihingizi also says that services that should be decentralized like procurement, aren’t and hence done by central government leaving out local governments.
This, Rwabihingizi says affects their ability to fight corruption involved in a procurement process at a higher level. He adds that contractors, after paying hard to secure contracts, are too arrogant to listen to local government officials since they even have godfathers at the higher levels.
The state minister for Local Government Victoria Rusoke Businge urged Local Government chairpersons to use their offices to fight corruption. She noted that some of them are the big fish and that they come to her office begging that chief administrative officers (CAOs) in their areas be transferred on allegations that they are non-performers when actually the main reason is that they have fallen out due to money deals.
She also asked them to use the available resources to monitor government projects as government plans to fund and facilitate them better.
“Today we said no more pointing fingers at one another, let’s look for facts to prevent other than fire brigading. If we do our roles transparently by monitoring, first of all, there is a law governing public expenditures, there are laws governing our budgets, how does someone pay money he’s not meant to spend in my eyes as a supervisor? All government programmes start at district level which should supervise the sub county, the municipalities, the town councils which means it is not a simple position to be a chairperson. We have agreed that there are gaps even in recruitment there is corruption. People who deserve to be appointed in certain positions are not appointed,” said Businge.
The inspectorate is involving different stakeholders to ensure that they save the Shs 20 trillion lost to corruption annually. There is also a plan to include anti-corruption studies in the school curriculum such that children are taught about it at an early age for them to be able to detect, avoid and report any corruption.